Sandy Hook shooting

I got to spend my Friday with my two girls at their school fun day yesterday. In Connecticut parents are being told their children have been murdered by an evil young man with a gun. Heartbroken for them, gutted that this world contains such evil, thankful for my own kids and at a loss to know why these things happen.

Pray for your kids – willing to work

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.(Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

I guess most parents struggle when their kids are flatly unwilling to pitch in and do a fair share of work around the home. The exact expectations may vary from family to family and between cultures, but part of our task as parents is to train our children in how to work.

God values work, He set Adam the task of tending the garden even before the fall:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

When we work we glorify God by doing what He created us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned work became harder, but it is still part of our purpose and so does not have to be a demeaning burden. By teaching our children that work is an expression of what is good about being human and that it glorifies God, we help them to become willing to work hard.

What do I pray?

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.


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Image: iStockphoto

When good kids go bad

Over a year ago I first read a blog post written by a pastor who received a letter from a young  woman who grew up in a good Christian home and went to a Christian college. She describes how she ‘went off the rails’ at college despite being ‘a good Christian’ and that this is a common scenario.

Living in a university town and having worked on campus for many years I have seen plenty of students arrive here fresh-faced and reasonably tame, only to deteriorate into a drunken, debauched mess within months. Christian kids can find it especially hard at Otago as their peers party up and throw off parental restraints.

Very few Christians make it through their university years with faith intact. Some do, and they shine strikingly against the secular backdrop surrounding them. But unfortunately the attrition rate is huge. A shallow faith doesn’t last long in the pressure cooker of student life. Even those with deep, robust faith can find themselves stumbling.

There is no ‘easy-fix’ to this situation, it is an unavoidable trial of living in a secular nation and this is where we are called to live as salt and light. However, what has made this letter stick in my mind is what it highlights about the importance of a father’s faith and relationship with his kids:

Here are some excerpts from that letter:

… I found out when I went to college that I am not the only “good kid” who is or has struggled with or is still struggling with serious stuff. We struggle with issues like eating disorders, depression and suicide, cutting, pornography, gender identity, homosexuality, drugs, drinking, immorality, and the list could go on. We listen to “wild” music, we idolize pop culture’s heroes, we watch dirty sitcoms. We have no discrimination in our entertainment, dress, or any aspect of our lifestyle.

… the problems that are supposed to be bad kid’s problems belong to us too. Unfortunately, our parents and youth workers don’t know that we struggle with these things and they don’t know what to do with us when they find out. Quite frankly, I believe that if you grabbed the average Christian school teacher or youth worker and asked them, “What would you do if you found out that one of the kids you work with was a homosexual?” they wouldn’t know what to say.

… Our parents did not spend time teaching us to love God. Our parents put us in Sunday Schools since K4. Our parents took us to church every time the doors opened, and sent us to every youth activity. They made sure we went to good Christian colleges. They had us sing in the choir, help in the nursery, be ushers, go soulwinning. We did teen devotionals, and prayed over every meal. We did everything right. And they made sure that we did.

But they forgot about our hearts. …. Unfortunately, our fathers don’t have time for us. They put us where we are surrounded by the Bible. But they didn’t take time to show us that God was important enough to them to tell us personally about Him…

Many of us struggle with stuff that our parents have no idea about because they hardly know us.
Saddest Letter I’ve Ever Read by Cary Schmidt

My eldest child is not yet a teenager, so there remains time to deepen our relationship such that she can see for herself how my faith in Christ really works. Will I be brave enough to admit when I don’t have answers to her questions? Even tougher, will I allow her to see my struggles when I do not have answers to my own questions?

I’m not at all eager to face tough times, but maybe my children need to see me do so. They need to have seen me wrestle with hard decisions and choose to trust God. They need to see me weak and desperate yet clinging to Christ in all circumstances. As yet they are still a bit too young to understand the world of adults. What I don’t want is for them to be adults and still not understand it or have seen genuine Christian faith in action within the world they find themselves.

I would also like us to trust each other enough to be honest and share where we really are at. How will a child learn such honesty? Perhaps by seeing it in their parents’ relationship and by their father being brave enough to be open to them.

Pastor Schmidt has also posted a couple of responses to the letter, with a very good one addressed to parents here.

And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:6 ESV)

Pray for your kids – gentleness

Boy with Down Syndrome

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17 ESV)

When God makes a person wise they will also become gentle. This is a robust gentleness, able to be fair and considerate, merciful rather than inflexible.

Being gentle comes from the heart, whether expressed by delicate hands or a labourer’s strength. Fine, dainty hands may be gentle of touch even while the owner of those hands shows harshness of heart by what is spoken.

Whereas a clumsy, ham-fisted person may be truly wise and gentle hearted, dealing kindly with others in both word and deed. I pray that my kids will be like this, showing gentleness and fairness to others.


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Pray for your kids – servant heart

… whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26–28 ESV)

Obviously none of us wants our children to actually be a slave to another person. So how is a child to understand what having a ‘servant heart’ is? Perhaps the easiest way is for them to see an example.

Many children need only look to their own mother for an example of a person with a servant heart. Certainly my wife is a much better example to our kids than I am!

However, all of us stumble is this very difficult character trait. The best example is Jesus – the very creator of the universe who came to serve rather than be served.

What do I pray?

I pray that my kids will love Jesus enough to want to be like Him, to truly be a child of His Father and so in being like Jesus to desire to serve others rather than to lord it over them.

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
(John 13:16 ESV)


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Pray for your kids – salvation

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.(1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)

This should be my prayer every day for my kids; to know the joy of their salvation – the grace, forgiveness and sanctification of God in Jesus Christ. May they grow in understanding of the riches of the gift they have received in Christ and as their knowledge increases that their joy will deepen.

I like these verses from 1st Peter because the emphasis is on loving God, rejoicing in Him as the One in whom we are saved. With belief like this a child can endure much and remain steadfast in Christ. When our trust is in who Jesus is and our joy is in knowing Him there will always be cause to rejoice even in the worst of times.

Nothing is more important than praying for our children to know Jesus in this way, for them to obtain joy inexpressible and the salvation of their souls.


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Pray for your kids – contentment

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13 ESV)

Child consumerism

For my children to be content with what they have is much harder than it was for me at their ages. They are subjected to an unending stream of stuff, food, experiences and entertainment that simply did not exist when I was a kid.

There is big money to be made from targeting children as consumers, and it is generally easier to convince a child than an adult that this next new thing will bring happiness. There are people out there greedily wanting money.

They are happy to use our kids in order to get it.

A learned state of heart

Learning to be content is a battle for all of us. From outside ourselves there will always be more to have, while arising from within is a constant stream of desires. These may both be neutral, but we are naturally primed to be always wanting more than we have.

Contentment is learned. It has to be learned from God because the world does not want us to be content – economics depends on our dissatisfaction!

Ask God to give your children contentment and for yourself also. Pray that we parents will learn how to be content so our kids have examples to follow.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
(1 Timothy 6:6–8 ESV)


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